Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Alton Brown's Protein Bars

Sorry that is no picture for this post. I didn't think about taking any pictures until after the bars all wrapped up.

Since I'm doing this muscle conditioning class at the gym and am trying to eat foods that are better for me, I was looking for a good "energy" bar that I could make myself. I had remembered seeing Alton Brown once making protein bars on Good Eats so I went to the Food Network Website and found the recipe. There were a few parts of the recipe that were unclear but after checking out the reviews on the recipe I figured everything out. Also, I remembered on the show that they gave the nutritional information, but that information isn't on the recipe page. The reviews had that info as well.

To make the bars begins with a bit of a monetary investment. Finding the protein powder, oat bran, wheat germ, and all the dried fruits in small quantities required by the recipe proved difficult. Luckily I already had protein powder and natural peanut butter on hand. The oat bran and wheat germ were not that expensive and I figured that if the bars didn't work, I could use them for other dishes. The dried fruit was the most difficult to find until my last trip to Trader Joe's where I saw a mixed dried fruit variety of raisins, blueberries, cranberries in a 1.5 cup bag. It would be perfect; I figured that cranberries would be close enough to cherries. I already had some dried apricots so I was basically ready to go.

I followed the directions as written and was a little worried once everything was combined. It didn't look the most appealing. But it had great reviews and was from Mr. Brown so I had faith that it would turn out okay. Since a specific internal temperature was stated in the recipe, I popped my digital thermometer into the batter and set the alarm for 205 F. It did take longer than the 35 minutes suggested in the recipe (I think it was about 45-50 minutes). If I wouldn't have had the thermometer the bars probably wouldn't have been fully cooked.

Once they were out of the oven, I let the bars cool completely then cut them up into the 24 servings suggested by the recipe. They cut easily and the bars stayed together.

Unlike other protein bars these have great flavor. Pretty much all you taste is the fruit and a hint of peanut butter. It's texture is similar to that of a fruit cake, but much better. I will definitely be making more of these. I want to experiment a little with different fruits or maybe no fruit at all. I also have an idea for a slightly less healthy chocolate bar. We'll see how things work out.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Trader Joe's Cranberry Almond Stuffed Chicken Breast

I took the easy way out last night and made this for dinner. Both the chicken breast and the green beans came out of the freezer. I picked up the stuffed chicken breast a few weeks ago at Trader Joe's for $2.99. If I had tried to make this from scratch I probably could have made it for less, but since I'm just cooking for myself, this is easier and more economical. The chicken with the stuffing is vacuum sealed then frozen so it looks like it would keep for a while in the freezer.

Once thawed, I cooked the chicken in the toaster oven for about 45 minutes. I used a digital thermometer to make sure that the internal temperature was over 165 F before taking it out. The package says that the chicken should only take about 25 minutes in an oven, so I think the extra time was a result of using the toaster oven and that the inside of the stuffing probably wasn't fully thawed. The green beans went directly from a box in the freezer to a bowl in the microwave. 5 minutes later, they were done.

I was a bit worried about how the chicken would turn out since I had to cook it longer than the package said, but it was still very moist. The stuffing had great flavor and was seasoned very well.

For its simplicity alone I would buy another of these stuffed chicken breasts. It had great flavor, is actually not that bad for you, and was easy to prepare. If you're out at Trader Joe's, give it a try sometime (but you might want to let it thaw in the fridge for a day, instead of doing the one hour quick thaw that is suggested on the package).

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Black Bean Lime Chili

I got this recipe from the Food Network Website. Here is the link if you are interested in making it yourself.

This is a really quick and easy soup to put together. For the most part I followed the recipe but instead of chopping the onion and peppers by hand I used my food processor. For me, that worked great since I'm not a big fan of chunks of onion or pepper and the processor really diced them up fine. Just like the chicken salad I posted previously, this chili used canned breast meat chicken. For the time saving aspect, its well worth the price. From beginning to end, including taking time to cut the vegies and such, this dish took less than 30 minutes.

One word of caution however, I would not use as much cilantro and lime juice as the recipe recommends. I like both, but in the quantity called for the chili ended up tasting too much lime and cilantro (they both really overpowered the other flavors).

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Chicken-Avocado Salad Pita

So here's another short and simple meal. It took less than 5 minutes from start to finish.

I wanted a way to get some high protein and healthy fats into a quick and easy sandwich and this is what I came up with. For this particular batch I used "chicken in a can" (which isn't all that bad) and some fresh avocado. To be honest, the avocado could be a little fresher (it was still pretty firm) but it worked. I mixed up the chicken and avocado with some mayonnaise and some salt and pepper and put it all in a pita.

That sandwich tasted pretty good but I thought that I could probably make it better. For the second try I used grilled chicken breast which I cut up into small chunks and a fresher avocado. I also put some fresh spinach on the sandwich. This was a major improvement (but it does take extra time to cook the chicken, unless you have leftovers which you can use). Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the second batch.

I recommend everyone to try this even if they think that they don't like avocado. I used to think that I hated avocado but I recently realized that I hated bad guacamole, not avocado. So, just give it a try!

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Baby Shower Carrot Cake

Alright, I'm not going to say much about this one since its basically the same carrot cake that I made back on Easter. This time the cake is much larger and twice as thick. There is additional cream cheese icing in between the cake layers.

I posted this because I mostly just wanted to show it off since this is probably my most professional looking cake so far. My handwriting isn't great, and its even worse when I'm writing with icing so I decided to use only decorations. I think it came out looking really nice. The mom-to-be really appreciated the cake and everyone commented on how good it was.

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